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Pulcheria

399-453. Eastern empress from 450. Daughter of Arcadius, East Roman emperor from 395 to 408, she was made regent at fifteen for her younger brother Theodosius II* by the Constantinopolitan senate (414). Under the de facto rule of this pious saint of the Greek Church, the court assumed a charitable and ascetic character. Pulcheria arranged the marriage of Theodosius to Athenais, daughter of Leontius, a pagan philosopher of Athens (421). Assuming the name Eudocia, Athenais became a Christian and personal rival to Pulcheria. They differed in the Monophysite (Eutychian) and Nestorian controversies, Pulcheria espousing orthodoxy in both. We have Cyril* of Alexandria's letter to both women condemning the views of Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople from 428 until the Council of Ephesus (431).

In 438 Pulcheria healed the thirty-year religio-political schism in Constantinople by returning John Chrysostom's bones to be interred in the Church of the Apostles there. Her temporary eclipse and departure from court about 440 resulted from the conspiracy of Eudocia with the eunuch prime minister Chrysaphius. Pulcheria returned in 450, Eudocia having retired to Jerusalem estranged from her husband, and upon Theodosius's death became empress and nominal wife of Marcian, now Eastern emperor (until 457). The Council of Chalcedon* (451), which condemned Eutychianism* and Nestorianism,* was convened at her order. Pulcheria founded three churches to Mary and left her possessions to the poor.

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